Since I appear to have made a name for myself with regard to the Georgia Bulldogs’ rivalry with the Auburn Tigers, I thought I ought to say a few words about the
Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry, even though I have covered this ground on previous occasions.
There is no Georgia rival the Bulldogs have faced more frequently, lost to more often, or had more seasons spoiled by than Auburn. However, these are matters of mere fact; the best way I know how to summarize the intensity of this series (other than by directing you to previous comment threads concerning the topic) is by telling anew an old story from exactly 17 years ago:
My wife, Susan, was responsible for Georgia's quadruple-overtime victory over Auburn in 1996. That fall, Susan and I were engaged, she was in her final year of grad school, I was in my last year of law school, and she was living in a high-rise apartment complex on the end of Baxter Street nearest Alps Road, not far from St. Mary's Hospital.
Because her apartment building was home to some families as well as students, Susan bought candy for Halloween . . . lots of candy for Halloween. She got almost no trick-or-treaters, though, so, for weeks thereafter, any time I was over at her apartment, Susan would offer me leftover Halloween candy, which I usually would decline.
On November 16, I went over to Susan's place so we could watch the Auburn game together. To put it mildly, the game was not going Georgia's way initially; in fact, when the Plainsmen went up, 28-7, with a little over six minutes remaining in the second quarter, I switched off the TV in disgust. (Please bear in mind that the Red and Black had gone 20-21-1 in their previous 42 games; I was nearing the end of my rope after four straight miserable seasons.)
Of course, I couldn't stay away. I turned the TV back on at halftime, by which time the Bulldogs had cut the deficit to 28-14. The fourth quarter began and ended with fireworks, as Hines Ward caught a 67-yard touchdown pass from Mike Bobo when the final stanza was roughly 30 seconds old and Corey Allen made his first career TD reception count as he hauled in the game-tying score with no time showing on the clock.
It was during that final crucial drive of nine plays, 82 yards, and a minute and seven seconds that Susan chose at the most inopportune of moments to offer me some leftover Halloween candy, which I had been refusing steadily for over two weeks.
The gist of my response was: "No, I don't want any leftover Halloween candy . . . I'm trying to watch an exciting game against our biggest rival!"
She replied, "How about an orange lollipop?"
I thought about that for a second and decided this game was too important to take any chances. "All right," I said. "Give me an orange lollipop."
I sat there like Kojak, with an orange lollipop in my mouth and the stem sticking out from between my lips as I shouted at the TV.
When Corey Allen scored to tie the game at 28, I leapt up off the couch and hollered. In my excited state, I bit right through the lollipop, crunching it into tiny pieces.
"We're going to overtime," I told Susan. "I need another lollipop."
She got me another orange lollipop. We went to the first overtime period. Georgia scored. Again I leapt up . . . again I bit right through the lollipop . . . again I needed a new one.
At the end of the second overtime period, the score was still tied, 42-42. By that time, I had taken the bowl of old Halloween candy and dumped it out on the living room floor to sift through in search of orange lollipops. By now, though, we were out of orange ones.
Desperate times call for desperate measures. Figuring that red and yellow make orange, I grabbed a red lollipop and a yellow lollipop, stuck them both in my mouth simultaneously, and sat there screaming at the TV with a stem sticking out of either side of my mouth, looking like a walrus.
Georgia won the game in four overtimes, 56-49. The lollipops pulled the 'Dawgs through; I went through seven of them . . . three orange ones at the end of the game and in the first two overtime periods, then two red ones and two yellow ones in the final two overtime periods.
In Profiles in Courage, John F. Kennedy's ghostwriter observed, "A man does what he must---in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures---and that is the basis of all human morality."
That's sort of the way I feel about the 1996 Auburn game. I did what I had to do by eating seven lollipops, in spite of the personal consequence of wreaking havoc with my blood sugar, in spite of such obstacles and dangers as ruining my supper and of such pressures as having to clean up the candy scattered across the living room floor afterwards, and that was the basis for the success of that most fundamental act of human morality, rooting against the unmitigated expression of evil that is Auburn.
That's how my wife was responsible for Georgia's victory over Auburn in 1996, and that’s the best way I know how to summarize the importance of today’s game. This is a rivalry worth destroying Halloween candy to win.
I hate Auburn.
Go ‘Dawgs! Auburna delenda est!